It has been well-documented that the Brazilian superstar, who left Barcelona in 2017 for a historic €222m fee, was pushing for a return to the Nou Camp to reunite with Lionel Messi. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner himself was open about the matter, admitting he wanted to reunite with Neymar.
While there were several rumours suggesting a move could be on the cards, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain failed to agree on a fee. Now, Eric Abidal — who was involved in an infamous war of words with Lionel Messi — revealed Neymar could have returned to Barcelona in 2019, but the board opted to sign Antoine Griezmann instead.
He explained in an exclusive with The Telegraph;
"Ten days before the end of the (2019) transfer window, I went to Paris to talk with Leonardo (PSG’s sporting director), and I was with my CEO, and we were talking about Neymar."
"I think if the CEO goes to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s because we can sign him. If we didn’t sign [Antoine] Griezmann before, I think 100 per cent we could have resigned Neymar because what we needed was a winger, and when Neymar was at Barcelona, he was amazing."
The former Barcelona sporting director added on Greizmann's signing in 2019,
"This is not about which player is better, it was what I thought was the position we needed at the time. The team needed a real winger. The president decided to sign Griezmann."
The French superstar was signed for a staggering €120m from Atletico Madrid to partner Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in attack for Barcelona. However, due to stylistic differences and other factors, the Blaugrana have, so far, failed to bring the best out of the World Cup winner.
Lionel Messi admits he wanted Neymar back at Barcelona
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has never shied away from the fact that he wanted his fellow South American forward to return to Barcelona. The pair, along with Luis Suarez, formed one of the deadliest forward lines in football history and fired the Blaugrana to a historic second European treble.
The Argentine has spoken of his admiration for Neymar in the past and openly admitted that he wanted to reunite with the PSG star, as well as claiming Neymar himself wanted to come back.
Speaking on the winger back in 2020, Lionel Messi told Mundo Deportivo;
"Neymar is one of the best in the world and I'd love him to come back. He is a very happy person who is always smiling and enjoys himself on and off the pitch. He gave all the players a lift. It's normal for the fans to feel [resentment about his possible return] because of the way he left, and that also bothered me at the time because we tried to do everything possible to try to convince him not to do it."
The Argentine legend added;
"I think Neymar really wants to come back [to Barcelona]. He's sorry about what he did and last year he tried hard to come back. I think that [apologising] would be the first step he would take to try to make it happen."
With Lionel Messi's contract expiring come summer, it remains to be seen if the newly-elected president, Joan Laporta, can convince him to extend his stay at Barcelona.
Rumours have suggested he could be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain, and his compatriot Leandro Parades recently claimed PSG have banned their players from revealing any more on the Lionel Messi front, fuelling speculation over a free transfer even further.